There are two advantages of pre-park opening breakfast reservations that make these some of the hottest ADRs at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In this post, we’ll cover how to use those ADRs for empty park photos and beating the rope drop dash at some of Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions.
Let’s start with the basics. A pre-park opening (PPO) advanced dining reservation (ADR) is a breakfast reservation prior to the opening of a given park, beginning at 8 a.m. on days when the parks open to regular guests at 9 a.m. While there is some fluidity to those times during busier seasons, that hour is almost always the window of time for pre-park opening ADRs.
No matter what (reasonable) time you intend upon arriving at Magic Kingdom or the other parks, Walt Disney World transportation will be running. Buses to Magic Kingdom usually begin running around 6:30, and buses for the other parks usually enter service around 7 a.m., as do the monorails and boats. This is more than enough time to arrive in time for your pre-park opening ADR. Security has been a little hit or miss in our experience, but usually opens by 7:30 a.m. at the latest.
Guests who have a pre-park opening breakfast reservation are (obviously) allowed into the parks early, with the ability to enter the park at around 7:45 a.m. This is true regardless of whether your ADR is for 8 a.m. exactly, or as late as 8:55 a.m. So long as your ADR is before official park opening, you’re “on the list” and allowed entrance via the turnstile for breakfast reservations.
Despite the fact that all guests with pre-parking opening ADRs are allowed to enter as early as 7:45 a.m., we’d encourage you to snag reservations closer to 8 a.m., if possible. This is because you’re going to be given priority in terms of seating if you have an earlier reservation, rather than a later one.
In actuality, we’ve never had things play out that way. We’ve done pre-park opening ADRs numerous times, and almost always get “stuck” with ones around 8:45 a.m. because we aren’t quick to the draw on the earlier ones.
Most times we’ve done this, we’ve spent around 12 minutes taking photos (and walking to the restaurant), and made a point of arriving at the podium to check-in by 8:00 a.m. By doing this, you should have around 45 minutes from the time seated until you need to leave to enjoy your breakfast. That’s a pretty narrow window once you factor in meeting characters (where applicable) and paying, but it’s doable most places.
If you’re not so concerned with racing through breakfast to get to an attraction by 8:55 a.m., we’d encourage you to go slower while entering the park. Soak up the ambiance and take as many photos as you can, because this is a rare experience that should be savored.
We did the unDISCOVERed Future World tour on our recent Walt Disney World trip, which also provides pre-park opening access to Epcot, and we had nearly 30 minutes to wander around. Here’s a quick walk-around video we posted to Facebook of the experience:
Another reason for taking your time is because most people who book pre-park opening ADRs–at least the ones entering at 7:45–are doing so in order to have a quick breakfast and finish in time for rope drop. They are in a hurry to get to the restaurant podium, be seated, and get on with their meal and day.
If you slow down and take your time, you’ll find there’s a bit of a “pocket” right after that initial rush into the park, and the next wave of guests who arrive. This is ideal for empty park photos and will also reduce your wait time to be seated at the restaurant podium.
In Magic Kingdom, it should be noted that this pocket is short-lived. Due to the new opening procedure, regular day guests start entering the park at 8 a.m., and even that time can be moved forward slightly on particularly busy days. (Park ops wants to avoid congestion at the turnstiles and security, which is why the opening procedure was moved inside the park.)
With that said, empty pre-park opening photos are still possible in Magic Kingdom. You just don’t have a full hour, and your chances of truly empty shots are dramatically lower. It’s still a nice experience, but nowhere near what it was a few years ago. If empty park photos in Magic Kingdom are your main motivation for this, staying late at night is probably the better option.
While any pre-park opening breakfast reservation will get you the advantage of empty park photos, not all offer the same in terms of rope drop strategy. For example, Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom is located outside the Fantasyland “rope,” meaning that if you finish there at 8:55 a.m., you’re behind a large horde of day guests who have been arriving since 8 a.m. In that case, you’re actually at a disadvantage for rope drop.
By contrast, if you do Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest Restaurant for breakfast, you’re inside the rope, giving you free rein of Fantasyland. These are the only two Magic Kingdom restaurants that offer such an advantage.
We’d recommend Be Our Guest Restaurant for breakfast. Although we weren’t particularly keen on it in our Breakfast Be Our Guest Restaurant Review, it’s a significantly cheaper option (great as a Disney Dining Plan credit use, too!).
Plus, racing through breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table is more impractical…and honestly not recommend given the high price you’re paying. In fact, while this post assumes that you’ve already made your mind up on doing a pre-park opening breakfast, we have a tough time justifying the out of pocket cost of any of these character breakfasts–but that’s just us.
Once done with breakfast, the attraction to which you should race in Magic Kingdom is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Other Fantasyland attractions are options (Peter Pan’s Flight is an alternative to consider), but Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the hot ticket.
In Epcot, the attraction you’ll want to target depends upon your location. If you did Akershus, Frozen Ever After is it. If you did Garden Grill, it’s Soarin’ Around the World. It’s not possible to criss-cross the park to do the other attraction, so plan accordingly.
We shared our experience doing a pre-park opening Akershus breakfast and finishing that in our Frozen Ever After Tips & Strategy post, so I won’t regurgitate that here. Suffice to say, we were able to meet every princess (barely) but it was a rushed experience, and for the price we paid, I would’ve rather had a slower paced, relaxed meal.
We’d only recommend this approach as a last resort if you’re unable to score Frozen Ever After FastPass+, and doing it at the end of the night is not an option.
We can’t speak to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as we have no personal experience on that front, but the advantage to doing Hollywood & Vine pre-park opening is likely going to lie with being able to sign-up for Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple. (We’ve heard you can do this before breakfast, but again, we have no experience. Perhaps someone who has done this can clarify in the comments?)
Over at Animal Kingdom, Tusker House offers a potential advantage for early access to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The bigger deal is that it currently offers a disadvantage for access to Pandora: World of Avatar. Under no circumstances should you book Tusker House if you plan on rope dropping Flight of Passage.
That could change once the dust settles with Pandora, but don’t hold your breath. We’re nearly a year into Pandora’s existence, and it’s still incredibly chaotic at rope drop, so the procedure is not likely to be anytime soon.
Actually, outside of Be Our Guest Restaurant, we have a very difficult time recommending pre-park opening breakfast reservations as an ‘alternative FastPass+.’ The cost of these character meals is simply too high, and even if you’re able to make it out in time, you’ll feel rushed and pressured throughout the entire meal.
Another thing to consider is that many of these breakfasts are buffets. When we do buffets at Walt Disney World, we put on our game faces, pretending we’re Crazy Legs Conti downing six hot dogs at once. Usually, we spend around 90 minutes at a Walt Disney World buffet: 60 minutes stuffing our faces non-stop, followed by 30 trying to recover from our waking food comas and trying to get up from our seats.
Plus, if you’re planning far enough in advance to make an ADR at the 180-day mark, there should be no reason that you can’t make a FastPass+ at the 60-day mark. Even the most coveted of these FastPasses (Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) are not too difficult to score at that point.
One thing we would highly recommend is making two separate pre-park opening breakfast reservations for the park of your choice on different days. The reason for doing this is because ADRs can be made before park calendars are typically released, meaning morning Extra Magic Hours can be scheduled after you’ve already made your ADR. Morning Extra Magic Hours effectively undermine your early entry advantage, so avoid breakfast on those days.
The problem with waiting to book ADRs until the park calendars are released is that some of the more popular restaurants will already be fully booked. Booking reservations on two different days sidesteps this problem, and so long as you cancel the other reservation, there’s no penalty.
Ultimately, pre-park opening breakfast reservations are something we really enjoy for the sake of experiencing an empty park first thing in the morning, not having to deal with the chaos of rope drop crowds, and fun photos. There also can be an advantage in beating the crowds to popular attractions, but that’s less of a sure thing. In the end, we would not recommend booking a breakfast you otherwise would not want to do (given the cost), but these advantages are certainly icing on the cake for a meal that already interests you!
Have you done a pre-park opening breakfast at Walt Disney World? What did you think of the experience? Any strategical tips to add? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!